Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wolf by Mo Hayder

The Anchor-Ferrers have come to their country home to relax and for Oliver, the husband to recuperate after heart surgery.  The couple is accompanied by their daughter and the family dog.  They barely get settled when they are captured by two men who move into the house to hold them hostage.   The dog runs away, leaving the family in the custody of the kidnappers.

Inspector Jack Caffery is in the area, taking a break from his police work after a case he just can't forget.  As always, thoughts of his brother who disappeared when they were just children won't leave him alone.  He realizes that a local tramp, known as the Walking Man, may have a clue to the disappearance and what happened and decides to approach him one more time.  He finds the Walking Man with a dog that he has found.  The dog has a note attached to his collar, 'Help us'.  The man says his price for telling Jack what he knows about his brother is for Jack to find the dog's family and discover what is going on with them.

As Jack starts his investigation, things are tense and getting worse at the house.  Although it first appears that ransom is the reason for the kidnapping, as time goes on it becomes clear that there is some personal motive behind the crime.  The kidnappers seem more interested in terrifying and humiliating the family than in any ransom.  Can Jack find them before a tragedy occurs?

Readers of Mo Hayder will be thrilled to find this seventh Jack Caffery novel.  No one writes like Hayder or leaves the reader so breathless and frightened.  Although the violence isn't that graphic, the tension builds so strongly that the reader may have to take breaks in order to read on. There is a twist that most readers won't see coming.  Wolf is a compelling page-turner.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Ripper by Isabel Allende

A serial killer is stalking the streets of San Francisco.  Bob Martin, the policeman in charge of the cases, searches everywhere for a connection between the victims who seem totally random.  However, this one may hit home for him.  There are indications that his ex-wife, Indiana, may be a target for the killer.  Then there is Amanda, their daughter.  She and a cadre of kids from all over the globe are involved in playing an online detecting game they call Ripper.  They look at real cases and try to solve them before the police do.

Indiana is the original earth mother.  She works as a massage therapist, and takes in wounded and lonely people under her wing as naturally as a mother bird protects her fledglings.  There are two men in her life.  Alan is a wealthy, cultured man who has been her lover for four years.  He can't imagine giving her up, but also can't imagine marrying her as she is not the typical woman in his social circles.  Ryan is an ex-Seal who loves Indiana fiercely, but is haunted by demons from his time in the service and the missions he has participated in. 

Against this background, the murders continue to pile up.  Often they are couples, both savagely killed.  All the victims have post-mortem injuries that the police know must mean something, but the meaning eludes them. Then Indiana goes missing.  Does the Ripper have her and can she be found and saved before she is also brutally killed?

This novel is a definite departure for South American author Isabel Allende.  Better known for her historical novels featuring South American history and culture, Allende refuses to be pigeonholed as an author.  She recently wrote Zorro, a book in the popular heroes category and has also written memoirs and children's books.  Her novelist background shows through in this mystery which gives extensive background for all the characters and the locations where the events occur.  Readers will be interested in this book both for the mystery itself and the departure from her normal subjects.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Savage Girl by Jean Zimmerman

In the 1870's, the wealthy were godlike in their ability to do as they chose.  This was the time of the Robber Barons, men like Rockefeller and Vanderbilt amassing legendary fortunes from natural resources.  To those names, add the Delegates, rich beyond belief from their silver mine holdings.  Fredrick Delegate, or Freddy as he preferred to be known, was the family patriarch.  He had two sons, Hugo and Nicky. 

When one is so wealthy, it is easy to become bored.  Wealthy men often seek out the bizarre and uncommon.  Thus it was with Freddy.  His interests ran to human oddities, and the family retinue contained a Chinese woman who had been a concubine and a Native American transgender.  But Freddy's real interest was in what was known as feral children; those humans said to be separated by tragedy from their families and raised by animals.  While visiting their silver mines in Nevada, the family comes across a young woman known as Savage Girl.  She is said to have been raised by wolves and is imprisoned in a sideshow, titillating the desires of men who came to her shows.

The Delegates rescue Savage Girl from the man who keeps her in the show making money from exhibiting her.  Freddy and wife decide that this is the perfect project, turning this feral girl into a New York debutante and proving that nurture overcomes nature.  As the weeks go by, it becomes clear that the girl was captured by Indians in a raid and lived with them for some time; she knows some Comanche language.  Slowly she begins to learn English and tells them her name, Bronwyn.  Hugo is fascinated and repelled in equal parts by Bronwyn.  She is beautiful but there is an air of remoteness about her that keeps people distant. The mysteries surrounding her life seem impenetrable, making her more appealing.   She has secrets that she doesn't share with anyone.  Soon Hugo notices that gruesome murders seem to follow the family as they make their way back to New York.  Are they connected to Bronwyn?  Could she be the murderer?

Jean Zimmerman has written a historical fiction novel that pulls the reader in and gives them a view of the Gilded Age and the wealthy families that ruled the country.  Along the way, the views of Darwin and the strict structures of society are explored.  There is a love story, a crime story, there is something for everyone.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction and for mystery lovers alike. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Booksie's Shelf, March 20, 2014

North Carolina had another ice storm this week, but today the sun is shining and spring flowers are blooming.  My backyard is full of robins and I hope spring is here to stay.  This week I've been in the 1800's with a feral girl adopted by a rich family, with an art model being stalked by a killer, with an Indian chef who has moved from India to England to Switzerland, and out west on a rural farm.  Here are the new books or portals to other worlds that have shown up since my last post:

1.  The Code Of The Hills, Nancy Allen, mystery, sent by publisher
2.  Almost Royalty, Courtney Hamilton, chick-lit, sent by publisher
3.  Bittersweet, Miranda Whittemore, literary fiction, won in contest
4.  Far To Go, Alison Pick, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
5.  Chop Chop, Simon Wroe, literary fiction, won in contest
6.  Swimming Home, Deborah Levy, literary fiction, Paperbackswap
7.  Acts Of God, Ellen Gilchrist, anthology, sent by publisher
8.  A Dangerous Age, Ellen Gilchrist, literary fiction, sent by publisher
9.  The Promise, Ann Weisberger, historical fiction, sent for book tour
10.  Airstreaming, Tom Schabarum, literary fiction, sent by publisher
11.  Waiting For Wednesday, Nicci French, mystery, sent by publisher
12.  Incendiary Girls, Kodi Scheer, anthology, sent for book tour
13.  Savage Harvest, Carl Hoffman, nonfiction, sent by publisher

What I'm currently reading:

1.  The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, reading on Kindle
2.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, reading on Kindle Fire
3.  The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson, hardback
4.  Rivers, Michael Farris Smith, hardback
5.  A March Of Folly, Barbara Tuchman, hardback
6.  A Necessary End, Peter Robinson, paperback
7.  Ripper, Isabel Allende, hardback
8.  The Murder Wall, Mari  Hannah, reading on Kindle Fire
9.  The Forest Unseen, David Haskell, reading on Kindle
10.  The Silent Wife, A.S.A. Harrison, paperback
11.  The Hundred-Foot Journey, Richard Morais, paperback
12.  Wolf, Mo Hayder, paperback

Have a great spring beginning this week!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Over My Live Body by Susan Israel

Things are not going great for artist Delilah Price.  Although she is about to have an exhibition of her sculptures, that's the only good thing she has going.  She is having to work long hours to pay her way so that she can create her art.  To make money and keep the flexible hours she needs, she puts in long hours as an artist's model, usually nude.  That has her boyfriend, Ivan, up in arms and he's gotten so jealous that Delilah has decided to break up with him.  If that's not enough, she has picked up a stalker, one that evidently has seen her in her modeling sessions.

Things get worse.  After she locks Ivan out, he won't give up and continues to call and show up wherever Delilah goes.  It's hard to tell who is more threatening, he or her stalker, who advances to in-person meetings wherever Delilah goes.  Then the bodies start piling up, including the partner of her best friend, Morgan.  Delilah goes to the police and finds that she needs to file paperwork and restraining orders before they can do anything.  Meanwhile the threat level continues to racket up.  Detective Patrick Quick seems aloof one day then interested the next.  Can he solve the murders and protect Delilah?

Susan Israel has created an offbeat heroine, a strong woman intent on her career and determined to make it on her own regardless of what it takes to do so.  This is the novel in a series about Delilah and Detective Quick, and the tension between them fuels the action.  Readers will be interested in solving the mystery while finding out about the life of an independent artist and what it takes to pursue a career in the field.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives edited by Sarah Weinman

Mystery lovers are in for a treat with the publication of Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, which is edited by Sarah Weinman.  This anthology features stories by some of the grande dames and early female writers in the mystery genre.  These women paved the way for the successful female crime writers of today, women such as Tana French, Denise Mina, Val McDermid and Laurie King. 

The stories are set in the years between the 1940's to the 1970's.  There are writers everyone has heard of, women such as Patricia Highsmith, Dorothy Salisbury Davis, Shirley Jackson and Celia Fremlin.  But there are also literary gems by writers most have never heard of or have forgotten.  These are women such as Nedra Tyre, Miriam Deford, Joyce Harrington and Helen Nielsen.  Regardless of whether the reader is familiar with the authors or not, the experience of reading these stories is fulfilling. 

Sarah Weinman's main job is as the news editor for Publishers Marketplace.  She also writes a monthly newsletter, the Crimewave for the National Post.  Her own short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcok Mystery Magazine and in the anthologies Long Island Noir, Dublin Noir and Baltimore Noir.  Her love of these early women authors and their contributions to the world of mystery writing is evident in this highly readable anthology.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Fortunate Son by David Marlett

The year is 1727 and the place is Ireland.  James Annesley is thirteen, the son of The Earl of Annesley, one of the richest peerages in England and Ireland, with extensive land holdings in both countries.  The current Earl is killed in a street accident, which makes James the seventh Lord Annesley.  That is, until his wicked uncle rides into town the day of the funeral, beating James in the street and sending him into hiding while he claims the title for himself.

Richard, the wicked uncle, claims that James was not the legitimate child of his father, but born of an alliance with the woman who was James' wet nurse.  This woman, Juggy, was in love with Flynn, the stableman who was James' emotional father and the father of his best friend, Sean.  Flynn and Sean try to protect James from Richard, but it is soon evident that he wants to have him killed to remove the threat he represents.  He doesn't manage to have James killed, but instead James is kidnapped and sent as an indentured servant to the Colonies. 

James is given a seven year sentence and when he attempts to escape, a further nine.  When James is twenty-seven, he returns to England where he plans to mount a case against Richard and reclaim his inheritance.  The trial is the biggest trial in English/Irish history, and everyone knew the story.  The most amazing thing about this novel is that it is based on a true story.

David Marlett has written a fascinating tale of noble skulduggery, of a time when nobles were truly lords of all they surveyed, and they were able to commit heinous acts without fear of punishment.  The case was so well known that it echoes in books based on the story.  Some of these include Robert Lewis Stevenson's Kidnapped, Sir Walter Scott's Guy Mannering, and Tobias Smollett's novels, The Adventures Of Peregrine Pickle and The Adventures Of Roderick Random.  The reader will be treated to a fast-paced story with unbelievable twists and turns, a famous tale that fell into obscurity over the years and is now rediscovered.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Kill Room by Jeffrey Deaver

NIOS has a rogue administrator.  The National Intelligence and Operations Service handles top-secret missions such as using drones to target terrorists.  But what if the targets selected are not really terrorists but just enemies of the man who runs the organization?  That's the fear when Robert Moreno, an outspoken critic of the United States, is assassinated in his hotel room.  Other members of the federal government are afraid the NIOS is out of compliance but needs a quiet investigation to determine if there is something wrong.

That's when Lincoln Rhyme and his team is called in.  Rhyme is the foremost forensic expert the New York Police Department has, even though he has been a quadralepic for many years.  He has collected a team of skilled investigators to be his hands and legs and can get to the truth if anyone can.  First and foremost is Amelia Sachs, one of the force's top detectives and Rhyme's love.  But there are many others; computer investigators, electronic surveillance, document verification and access to government files.  A new player on the team is ADA Nance Laurel, a buttoned-down, rigid lawyer who isn't quite sure what to make of the informal group she now must work with.

Although the team believes a sniper has committed the murder it soon appears that this is instead a refinement of the drone program which is supposed to avoid the collateral deaths that dropping huge explosive payloads provide.  Although the investigation is secret, it is soon clear that someone in NIOS knows what is going on.  Witnesses start to be eliminated before the team can get to them to interrogate.  The team starts to suspect that things may be even more complicated than it first appeared.  Can they unravel the mystery in time to stop the next target from being killed?

This is the tenth entry in the popular Lincoln Rhyme series.  Deaver has created a character that is memorable.  His plotting manages to balance on a tightrope; intricate but compelling.  He creates a page-turner that has plenty of twists and turns to keep even the most experienced mystery reader satisfied.  This book is recommended for mystery lovers and those who are unsure if all our government agencies can be trusted. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Booksie's Shelf, March 9, 2014

It's been a strange week in North Carolina.  Although the daffodils are blooming, we had a major ice storm yesterday, resulting in thousands losing power.  We were lucky and only were out of power for about four hours.  That just translates into reading time!  Here's what came through the door this week:

1.  Providence Rag, Bruce DeSilva, mystery, sent by publisher
2.  The Devil's Workshop, Alex Grecian, mystery, Amazon Vine review book
3.  Rules For Becoming A Legend, Timothy Lane, literary fiction, sent by publisher
4.  The Tropic Of Serpents, Marie Brennan, fantasy, sent by publisher
5.  Hangman, Stephan Talty, mystery, Amazon Vine review book
6.  The Plover, Brian Doyle, historical fiction, Amazon Vine review book
7.  How To Succeed In Business Without Really Crying, Carol Leifer, memoir, sent by publisher
8.  Tales From The Eternal CafĂ©, Janet Hamill, anthology, sent by publisher
9.  Swimming Home, Deborah Levy, literary fiction, Paperbackswap book
10.  Savage Girl, Jean Zimmerman, historical fiction, sent by publisher
11. Acid Row, Minette Walters, mystery, Paperbackswap book
12.  The Secret Scripture, Sebastian Barry, historical, sent by publisher
13. Wolf, Mo Hayder, mystery, Amazon Vine review book
14.  An Unsuitable Princess, Jane Rosenberg LaForge, memoir, sent by publisher
15.  The Rise & Fall Of Great Powers, Tom Rachman, literary fiction, contest win

What I'm currently reading:

1.  The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton, reading on Kindle
2.  The Flamethrowers, Rachel Kushner, reading on Kindle Fire
3.  The Orphan Master's Son, Adam Johnson, hardback
4.  Rivers, Michael Farris Smith, hardback
5.  A March Of Folly, Barbara Tuchman, hardback
6.  A Necessary End, Peter Robinson, paperback
7.  The Time Regulation Institute, Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, paperback
8.  The Murder Wall, Mari  Hannah, reading on Kindle Fire
9.  Tilted World, Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Tennelly, paperback
10.  The Silent Wife, A.S.A. Harrison, paperback
11.  Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives, edited by Sarah Weinman, paperback
12.  After I'm Gone, Laura Lippman, paperback
13.  The Small Hand and Dolly, Susan Hill, paperback

Have a great reading week!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Moth And Spark by Anne Leonard

Caithen is a small country caught between two larger ones, great powers that are rivals.  They are under the protection of one of these, vassels to the Emperor.  The Empire bases its strength on the protection of its band of dragons.  The dragons were originally from Caithen, but were stolen away centuries ago and forced to be slaves to the Emperor.

Prince Corin of Caithen is caught up in the intrigue needed to save his country during this time of war and destruction.  While the Emperor is charged with protecting the country, he has recently made moves that put that protection in question.  In fact, it appears that he is betraying Caithen, willing to sacrifice it to the other power for some reason.  That reason is Prince Corin.

Corin was selected by the dragons years ago to be their savior, then given a forgetfulness enchantment that left him unaware of his part to play in the power struggle.  Now the time has come to fight for the dragons and he has become aware of what fate has chosen him to do.  The problem is that he has no idea how to go about freeing the dragons, although he knows that he must in order to save his country.

As he is struggling with the issue, he meets a woman he never expected to find.  Tam Warin is a commoner, a doctor's daughter who has come to court with her royal sister in law.  Corin and Tam are instantly attracted to each other, although it is clear to both that their love can have no legitimate ending.  A prince cannot marry outside of the royal class.  But neither can resist the other, and as their love affair progresses, they discover that it is meant to be.  Tam is a Seer and her skills along with the powers the dragons have given Corin may give the two the edge to free the dragons and save Caiten.

Anne Leonard has written a fantasy sure to please dragon lovers and those interested in political intrigue and magic as a solution to problems.  The love affair is written well with the problems the lovers encounter brought front and center.  The interaction with the dragons is well done, as is the political maneuvering found at royal courts.  This book is recommended for fantasy readers.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Death Bed by Leigh Russell

Someone is stalking women on the streets of London.  Two women have gone missing with their bodies showing up days later, battered and mutilated.  The killer is taking teeth and amputating limbs post-mortem, to what purpose no one knows.  The police pull out all the stops in their investigation, but are not getting anywhere fast.  Public sentiment is rising since the two victims who have been found are both minorities and there is a question of police prejudice.  Even worse, the evidence recovered with the bodies suggest that there could still be other victims who have not been found.

Into this environment comes Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel.  Steel has been in the police force for years, but has been posted in a more rural area.  Now she has been transferred to London, and this case is her first opportunity to either shine or fail.  She has a new sargent, Sam Haley, a vivacious woman who keeps Geraldine in the know about the local team and its gossip.  She also has a new supervisor, one that she's not sure she trusts.  She feels he will take the credit if the investigation is successful and use Geraldine's London inexperience as the scapegoat if it fails.

The victims seem to not have much in common.  Jessica Palmer is a child of the streets, poor and working in a massage parlor.  Donna Henry is wealthy and cultured.  Yet both have fallen prey to the killer.  Steel determines that the common factor is that both were taken outside pubs after a night of too much indulgence, snatched off the street while making their way home.  Can she find the killer before more women go missing?

This is the fourth novel in the Geraldine Steel series, although the first where she strikes out on her own rather than being paired with her prior partner, Ian Peterson.  Readers will find the novel interesting in its inside view of a police investigation and how the personalities of those investigating a crime impact the success of the job.  This book is recommended for mystery readers. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Free by Willy Vlautin

Leroy Kervin is a former soldier.  Badly wounded, he has spent eight years in a group home and despairs of ever regaining his health. His days are full of confusion and his nights full of horrific dreams in which he and his girlfriend are pursued by a group that wants to harm them.   Pauline Hawkins is a night nurse at the home and Leroy is one of her charges.  Pauline was raised by her father when her mother left them and now the roles have reversed and she takes care of her father.  Freddie McCall is the night manager at the home.  Crushed by medical debts, he works two jobs trying to stave off losing his home.

These are the protagonists of Willy Vlautin's fourth novel, The Free.  Each has been crushed by life, by circumstances beyond their control.  Yet each refuses to give up.  By small acts, they reach out to others, helping where they can and just providing friendship and support where they can't.  They are the backbone of America, those who will never be famous or rich but who plod on daily to do what they can to carve out a life a little less bleak than it would have been.  They never lose hope that doing what they know is the right thing will eventually make life better for those around them.  Whether that is being kind daily to the clerk in a donut shop or rescuing a young person from the streets, they do what is in front of them to do. 

Although the subject matter seems bleak, the reader will finish this novel with a renewed sense of hope and a belief that most people will try to do what is best whenever they can make that choice.  The characters could easily give up but refuse to do so.  While they may skirt the law in their choices, those choices are ultimately in the service of morality.  One can't help but get involved with Pauline and Freddie and cheer them on in their battles.  Willy Vlautin has been praised as a novelist to watch, and this book strengthens that recommendation.  This book is recommended for readers who want to know that our choices matter and that when we refuse to give up it will make a difference in the lives around us.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Thieves' Quarry by D.B. Jackson

Times are difficult in pre-Revolutionary Boston.  The British navy has just brought in a fleet of ships to show force and transport the soldiers that will be occupying the town while the wayward colonists are brought to heel.  While still in the harbor, a tragedy occurs.  All the men on one ship, one hundred in all, are found mysteriously dead. There are no wounds or blood to be found, just scores of men who dropped wherever they were.  What could have caused such an event?

Ethan Kaille may be the answer.  A former convict who served time in Barbados as a convicted mutineer, he now works as a thieftaker in Boston.  Thieftaking is not a particularly lucrative occupation, but one for which Ethan is uniquely suited.  For Ethan is a conjurer.  Some call conjurers witches, and they are as feared and scorned as one might imagine, that is, unless you need their talents.  The Crown is in such a situation and they hire Ethan to discover what has occurred.

Ethan quickly realizes that the deaths are the work of magic.  He thought he knew all the conjurers in Boston, but someone this powerful is more than he has ever encountered.  He starts searching for the answers, but he has some powerful enemies.  Sephira Pyrce is the city's most successful thieftaker, and Ethan's sworn enemy.  She is also searching and it is a race to see who can locate the responsible individual first.  Although hired by the government, that doesn't mean everyone in power is willing to help Ethan.  Sheriff Greenleaf is a long-time declared enemy of Ethan's, and does everything in his power to thwart his investigation.  The lieutenant governor, Thomas Hutchinson, is an even more formidable enemy.  He hates all conjurers and witchcraft, and gives Ethan a deadline to solve the mystery.  If he fails, Hutchinson vows to hang every conjurer in the city.  Can Ethan fight his enemies off long enough to solve the mystery?

Thieves' Quarry is the second novel in the Thieftaker Chronicles.  While reading the first is recommended, it is not necessary for enjoyment of this new entry into the historical urban fantasy genre.  D.B. Jackson is the pen name of an established author, who has planned at least two more books in this fascinating series.  Fantasy readers will be excited to discover this author, and will wait eagerly for the next installments. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bark by Lorrie Moore

Lorrie Moore is acknowledged in the literary world as one of the masters of the short story genre.  In this new collection, she gives the reader eight stories that explore the human condition and our need for connection.

In the first story, "Debarking" the protagonist has recently gone through a divorce.  He deals with the loss of his marriage and constant time with his children.  In time, he starts to reach out and establishes a new relationship with a woman who has a teenage son.  The story follows the difficulties of starting anew with someone else and having to adjust to their personalities and needs. 

In "Wings" the author explores the end of life and how for many people all loving relationships have fallen away due to time and death, leaving them alone for the last journey.  They are especially susceptible to manipulation by others as they try to not be alone at the end.  It also explores the death of long-term relationships that may have been held together by nothing more than inertia after the first blush of lust has dried up.

Moore is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English, a post she accepted after almost three decades at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker and the Paris Review.  Stories have been included in anthologies such as the 1998 edition of The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Short Stories of The Century and Children Playing Before A Statue Of Hercules.  Readers will find much to ponder after reading these stories about the nature of love and our never ending need for others to share our lives with.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction and those who enjoy the short story genre.